How Not To Get On An Interview Shortlist

UK Employers are still hiring even in the current volatile economic climate, according to the latest CBI survey of employment intentions, the Employment Trends Survey.

47% of employers are predicting their workforces will be larger in a year and 19% predict they will be smaller, giving a balance of +28%. This rises to +35% in firms with fewer than 250 employees.

Just 7% of companies are operating a recruitment freeze, compared with 61% during the depths of the recession in 2009 and it seems the prospects for graduates are also improving slightly all this despite the recently announced unemployment total having risen to 8.3%.

However, with recruitment agencies and employers likely to receive large volumes of applications candidates need to be extra careful about the impression they create if they want to make the interview shortlist.

This writer, at a recent networking event, was given the following stories by small businesses that had recently been recruiting.

The first employer was seeking to employ an office manager. He described one CV his company had received in response to its advertisement, to which had been added a “scruffy, badly spelled handwritten note”. Worse still, the writer had realised that they had missed a letter out of one word, had inserted an arrow where it should have been and written the missing letter above. When the majority of employers say that their most common reason for rejecting applications is bad spelling and grammar, this could be described as a foolish. They are also clear that thisproblem is more prevalent among younger candidates.

The second example from a legal practice was slightly different. The CV the company had received had been perfectly acceptable apart from one piece of information it contained. The candidate had listed among their hobbies extreme sports. This candidate too went into the reject pile on the grounds that the recruiter did not want to risk employing someone who might be regularly taking time off through injury or turning up with a limb in plaster.

The company involved in the third story needed clients to be reassured that its employees were professional, discreet and to be trusted and had recruited a woman for the office. She started work during the winter. However, come the summer and lighter, less enveloping clothing all was revealed. Her back, neck and upper arms were covered in tattoos, which was hardly appropriate for the business the company was in. The employer asked that they be covered up when the woman was at work. She left six weeks later.

This last employer also reinforced the point that badly spelled applications went straight into the bin but also that when recruiting trainees for their profession he was appalled by how many had done no research before interviews about the training and qualifications they would be asked to undertake.

While it is debatable whether it would have been discriminatory to reject a candidate on the grounds of a hobby or tattoos, no employer would be likely to cite this as a reason.

However, the onus is on the candidate always to present themselves appropriately and to consider how a potential employer is likely to react to an outside interest or physical appearance. There is no need to volunteer information about a hobby that might raise eyebrows and it should be obvious with some research that there are appropriate forms of dress in many professions.

However, while it may be that bad spelling and grammar is an indication of a failure of the education people have received, as the last employer pointed out, there is such a thing as the spell checker on the computer. Equally, if a person is unsure about their command of written English there is no harm in having everything checked by someone they know is more competent.

This is likely to be particularly, though not exclusively, important when searching for administrative, PA or EA roles with larger corporations.

Consulting a professional specialist recruitment agency to check on competence will allow candidates to establish whether they would benefit from some extra tuition to correct or improve their spelling and grammar and could make all the difference between the reject and the shortlist piles.

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